Friday, October 15, 2004

Can a hawk support Kerry? 

The liberal hawks, torn by their support for an aggressive war against Islamic fascism abroad -- which we know Bush will fight and can only hope Kerry would sustain -- and their generalized disgust at the Bush administration, are trying to argue that Kerry will have to keep fighting the war, so we can have our cake and eat it too. Andrew Sullivan has been making this point for a while (although without clearly embracing it or rejecting it), with his latest post up this morning:
It's a simple argument and it goes as follows. One reason to vote for Kerry this time is that, whatever his record, he will, as president, be forced by reality and by public opinion to be tough in this war. He has no other option. You think he wants to be tarred as a wimp every night by Fox News? Moreover, he would remove from the Europeans and others the Bush alibi for their relative absence in the war on terror. More important, his presidency would weaken the Michael Moore wing of the Democrats, by forcing them to take responsibility for a war that is theirs' as much a anyone's.

Andrew goes on to quote Bob Kagen and Max Boot, who argue that just as the election of Eisenhower forced Republicans to support the containment of the Soviet Union (as if Joe McCarthy's Republican Party needed a big boost to that rung on the ladder), a Kerry Administration would force the Democrats to take ownership of the war on terror.

This is wishful thinking of a very dangerous sort. While it may be the case that Kerry surprises us -- the office changes the person in it -- everything in Kerry's "lifetime of service" and much of what he has said in this campaign suggest that he wants to fight the war defensively, rather than aggressively overseas, and that is a war that I don't think we can win.

He has a long history as a dove, the most damning moment being when he voted against the recovery of Kuwait in 1991. Whatever the merits of Dubya's "Coalition of the Willing," Kerry is right that we had a vast coalition going in with us in 1991. The Gulf War was a very different story from 2003 as Kerry himself has argued incessently, yet he voted against even that ultra-multilateral response to overt aggression.

Kerry has also repeatedly emphasized our current failings in defensive homeland security, spelling out our weaknesses in such detail one wonders whether al Qaeda isn't taking notes. He has complained about the lack of federal funds for fire departments (even though the number of fires of the non-terrorism variety has declined precipitously in the last thirty or forty years), and wants to inspect everything (without, however, violating anybody's rights). Bush's response, which is essentially that you can't guard everything which is why you have to kill Islamists overseas, demarcates a stark difference in the thinking of the two candidates.

More fundamentally, Kerry's own statements in this campaign undermine our ability to imagine that he will pursue the war on Islamist fascism aggressively. Joe Katzman of Winds of Change wrote it best:
I even understand the impetus to look at 2 candidates who offer less than the times demand, and see the stakes before us, and tell oneself that Kerry will have to do the right thing.

But you know what? He absolutely does not.

Look at Europe now, or look back into human history - illusion and passivity in the face of real threats is an option, and some leaders and states will take it.

One question: is Kerry one of those people? Simple question. Simple answer.

Kerry's positions on issues like Iran are clear, and were openly stated in the debate: normalize relations with the world's #1 terrorist sponsors while they undermine Iraq & Afghanistan, offer them nuclear fuel, propose sanctions the Europeans will drag their feet on in order to stop a late-stage nuclear program that's impervious to sanctions anyway, and oppose both missile defense and the nuclear bunker-buster weapons that would give the USA defensive or offensive options in a crisis.

The liberal hawks have no easy way out because they cannot support their hopes for a hawkish Kerry on the basis of his record of actions and statements. The choice is as difficult as it always has been.


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